Should You Invest in Paid Advertising for Local SEO?

April 24th, 2024, 09:00 AM

Investing in paid online advertising can significantly increase brand awareness and attract more customers for businesses of all sizes, but how does paid advertising fit into your local SEO strategy? Do you need both local SEO and paid advertising? If so, which should you do first?

In this article, we'll provide answers to these and other important questions about paid advertising vs local SEO.

Paid Advertising vs Local SEO: Key Differences

Before we go any further, let's make sure you understand some important distinctions between paid advertising and local SEO.

Local SEO, like all other types of SEO, is only concerned with driving organic traffic. In other words, besides the time and money you invest in local rank tracking and optimizing your Google Business Profile, website, and other assets for local search, you don't have to pay for the increased visibility and traffic you get by implementing a local SEO strategy.

On the other hand, paid advertising, as the name implies, involves paying for online visibility and traffic, in addition to resources that go into implementing a paid online advertising strategy. 

There are many different forms of paid advertising on Google and other platforms, and they vary in terms of pricing models. 

For instance, some types of online ads are pay-per-click (PPC), meaning you pay a certain amount every time someone clicks on your ad, while others are pay-per-impression (PPI), which means you pay every time someone sees your ad.

Most online ad platforms employ some type of bidding system, which allows you to set a maximum amount you're willing to pay for an impression or click. 

Some ad platforms, like Google's Local Services Ads (LSAs), only charge for leads, such as phone calls made, messages sent, or appointments booked.

Are There Any Similarities Between Local SEO and Paid Advertising?

Despite their different methodologies and cost, paid advertising and local SEO do have some similarities, with the main one being that they are both concerned with generating leads and, ultimately, sales.

Both local SEO and paid advertising aim to do this by making something related to a business — usually a business listing, a website, or an ad — be the first thing users see when they search for relevant terms on Google or another platform. 

Local search engine optimization and paid advertising strategies offer businesses different ways to appear above competitors in these search results. If a business is doing both local SEO and paying for online advertising, they could even have multiple assets appearing in the same search results.

Because of their similar end goals, paid advertising and local search optimization are not mutually exclusive. They are two potentially effective strategies that can complement one another and help businesses get more local leads online.

Do Paid Ads Affect Local SEO?

Paid ads do not directly affect local search rankings, as Google and other search engines employ separate algorithms for organic and paid search traffic. However, paid advertising may indirectly affect your local SEO in a few different ways. 

Increased Visibility

Paid ads appear at the top of search engine results pages (SERPs), increasing your business's visibility to local customers who are actively searching for products or services like yours. This increased visibility can lead to more clicks and visits to your website, which can indirectly benefit your organic search rankings.

Brand Awareness

Paid advertising can help increase brand awareness in your local area, which can lead to more branded searches. Google considers branded searches when determining local search rankings, so increased brand awareness can indirectly benefit your local SEO efforts.

Local Signals

Google uses a variety of signals to determine the relevance and prominence of local businesses in search results. Paid advertising can help strengthen these signals by providing additional information about your business's location, services, and relevance to local searches.

Citations and Backlinks

Some paid advertising platforms, such as local directory listings or sponsored content, can help generate citations and backlinks to your website. These can have a positive impact on your organic search rankings, as they indicate to search engines that your business is reputable and relevant to local searches.

What Should You Do First, Local SEO or Paid Advertising?

For most types of local businesses, the best strategy to focus your online marketing efforts on at first is local SEO. This primarily involves tracking your local ranking in search engine results pages (SERPs) for relevant keywords, analyzing competitors, and optimizing your Google Business Profile and website.

Since the vast majority of people search for local businesses on Google or Google Maps, starting your local business's digital marketing strategy off by optimizing for these platforms will give you the best chances of getting found when a potential customer is searching for products or services like yours.

By focusing on Local SEO, you can maximize your resources and start to outrank competitors for specific keywords in hyper-local areas, driving more organic traffic to your business and setting it up for sustainable success in local search.

When Should Local Businesses Use Paid Online Advertising?

After you've set a solid foundation for ongoing local SEO, you may want to consider investing in paid online advertising to complement your local search strategy. There are a few different scenarios when paid advertising can benefit local businesses the most:

  • Immediate Results: If you need to generate leads or sales quickly, paid advertising can deliver immediate results, whereas local SEO is a more long-term strategy that takes time to see significant results.
  • Highly Competitive Keywords: If you're in a competitive industry and/or targeting highly competitive keywords, paid advertising can help you compete for visibility in search results more effectively than relying solely on local SEO.
  • Promoting Offers or Events: If you're running a promotional offer, sale, or event and want to reach a large audience quickly, paid advertising can help you promote these offers effectively.
  • Testing and Optimization: Paid advertising allows you to quickly test different messaging, offers, and targeting strategies to see what resonates with your audience, which can help inform your local SEO strategy over time.
  • Targeted Local Advertising: Paid advertising platforms like Google Ads and Facebook Ads offer highly targeted local advertising options that can help you reach local customers through different channels more effectively than local SEO alone.
  • Service-Area Business: Google LSAs offer a unique opportunity for service-area businesses to generate more leads through paid advertising that only requires you to pay for actual leads. LSAs reviews can also appear on your Google Business Profile, giving it a local SEO boost.


While paid advertising can be a valuable addition to your marketing strategy, it's important to remember that it should complement, not replace, your local SEO efforts. 

A comprehensive digital marketing strategy should include a mix of local SEO, paid advertising, content marketing, and other tactics to reach your target audience effectively and attract more local customers through various online channels.

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